What Is Up-Cycling?

The concept of up-cycling encompasses refurbishing, repurposing, or repairing items that have been wastefully discarded. In simplest terms, up-cycling entails repurposing objects or materials to make a new product that is better than the original. As a result of up-cycling, items are given a second life, they are revived, but now have a higher value than they had before.

Up-cycling is beneficial to the environment in many ways. The process of up-cycling prevents materials from being disposed of in landfills. By up-cycling, carbon emissions from landfills are reduced indirectly. Furthermore, up-cycling helps in reducing air pollution, water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and conserves global resources. Each industry has its own refurbishing process and method of up-cycling. In the apparel industry, and environmentally friendly means of reducing textile waste is through up-cycling dead stock or lightly used fabrics. Likewise in the marine industry, thousands of lives could be saved if ocean plastics could be up-cycled.

Up-cycling vs. Recycling

Even though recycling and up-cycling share many similarities, they differ in key aspects. In recycling, waste from a landfill or waste management facility is transformed into reusable materials with the help of an industrial process. A classic example of recycling is the plastic PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is recycled worldwide through various recycling programs. By up-cycling, you capture the object before it gets to the waste system, whether that’s to a landfill or to the recycling unit. In other words, you pick it “UP” and take it out of the waste stream.

As a sustainable practice, up-cycling is more desirable than recycling. The idea behind up-cycling is to reuse or repurpose something by yourself and give it a new lease of life. Thus, up-cycling reduces the time and energy spent sorting and grouping waste. Making wine racks from pallet wood can be considered an example of such individual efforts in repurposing resources. When recycling becomes harder, up-cycling is a great way to prevent items from being thrown away.


One of GSM’s key mission deliverables includes rewarding conscious consumers. The products we offer through our secondary market platform enhance sustainability and meet the demands of conscious consumers. Our company’s goal is to contribute to the growth of global secondary sustainable markets by serving as the most innovative, effective, and value-added enabler.

Below are a few up-cycling inspirations:

  • Use old clothes to make face masks, pillowcases, tote bags, or shopping bags
  • An old pallet can be transformed into a table and chairs for the outdoors
  • Make decorative indoor or outdoor flowerpots and mini herb gardens using old containers filled with soil.
  • Making chandeliers out of wine bottles.
  • Newspapers can be repurposed as gift bags

“Your trash could be someone else’s treasure”